(Female) Physician Suicides; A Silent Pandemic?

“Aunty blew her brains out a few weeks ago!” Words I shall never forget.

For weeks, she had been in my thoughts. But I never called her. I didn’t because of all the myriad reasons we often give ourselves for not checking up on each other.

In my case, they sounded like this; “I am 7 months pregnant, and it has been a difficult pregnancy.” “I am in an abusive marriage.” “My pediatric practice is struggling.” “I have a 2-year-old son,” and so forth. When I eventually dialed her number, her niece told me she had killed herself. She was only 33 years old. A surgical resident. My friend and colleague. The news of her death sent me into preterm labor with my now 20-year-old son.

Earlier this year, we read about Dr. Laura Breen, a female emergency room physician’s suicide, and numerous other female physicians across the globe, causing the Indian Medical Association to dub it “a public health crisis”.

I myself have also struggled with active suicidality. I am a Black, immigrant, United States Air Force veteran, divorced single mother of three Black sons, and a female physician practicing in the United States. Apparently, those are essential ingredients for suicide.

That’s not including my history of sexual assault or domestic violence. Nor my near constant exposure to homophobia, sexism, and racism, etc.

Photo by Eunhyuk Ahn on Pexels.com

Have physician suicides now become a silent pandemic? Afterall…

Physicians should be brilliant, resilient, and darned near perfect. We cannot afford to make mistakes (no pressure).

We must show up 100% each day with our game faces on, with a smile, ready to serve and save lives!

We must never tire; we must love our jobs and not give-in to overwhelm or toxicity at the workplace.

We must thrive regardless of near inhumane working conditions. But what if we can’t? What if we are actually human? What if the rest of the world sees us as one of them? What if we see ourselves as human and as such fatigable, maybe even fallible?

What if we save our patients but not ourselves? What if “first do no harm” protects everyone else but us? What if our beloved profession becomes a noose around our necks?

What if we are unable to cope with life during a pandemic; family, relationships, money, illness, colleagues, workplace abuse to name a few? What if we find themselves hopeless, helpless, and trapped in our “perfectionism”? What if we pay the ultimate price for all this with our lives?

Does anyone notice? Are we missed? Is anyone counting?

Globally, physician suicides are at an all-time high. And female physicians have a higher mortality rate by suicide than male physicians in the United States…and like most suicides, it is grossly under-reported.

I know, I am a female physician in the United States, and I have been suicidal.

More women are entering medicine than they were before 1980, but women in medicine still face a wage gap, a risk of sexual harassment, motherhood, relationship issues, and other disparities that can contribute to mental health challenges and suicide.

This burden is worsened by fears of being seen as less capable, an educational system that stresses care for others over care for self, and licensing and credentialing requirements that often punish physicians who accurately report their diagnoses and treatments.

Results of a systematic literature review and meta-analysis show women physicians are 46% more likely than their female counterparts in the general population to die by their own hands. Sadly, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened physician moral injury, burnout and suicide.

It has exposed the inefficiencies in healthcare systems across the world, particularly in the United States, and exacerbated the toxic stress physicians have been experiencing for a while now. To my knowledge, there has been one reported physician suicide each weekend for the last 4 weeks in the United States.

And no one is really talking about it.

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However, what is our role in preventing our own suicides? According to Dr. Ann McCormack’s article in the Medical Journal of Australia, “Among the medical workforce, work–life balance is poorly practiced and modelled.” “In fact, there is a subtle undertone rampant within the medical fraternity, in which late-night emails, missing a child’s school concert, publishing multiple articles a year, and not taking annual leave become unvoiced indicators of a truly committed doctor.”

No truer words, if we be honest with ourselves…

Thankfully, there is hope;

1/ According to the American Medical Association (AMA), Physicians can seek help, and not be “punished” in most states of the U.S.

2/ Healthcare institutions can put processes in place for physician wellness and ensure physician adherence.

3/ Doctors themselves should invest in activities that will build resiliency and support their physical and mental health, and model such behaviors to their colleagues.

3/ Physicians should be encouraged to be each other’s keepers through kindness, and practice empathy and compassion towards one another.

4/ The general population should be educated to end the silence, shame, and stigma associated with the word “suicide”.

5/ We should normalize discussions around emotional trauma and mental health challenges and avoid any repercussions towards doctors who speak up and speak out.

6/ Medical students should be selected based on both academic performance and aptitude tests, and regular enquiry into, and support of their mental health should be a high priority.

BB

It’s October, What Are You Doing About it?

Dear Blog,

I woke up this morning with you on my mind.

I knew I had to make my monthly entry.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year thus far, and none of the negative energy around us seems to be dying down.

Hmmm.

Suffice it to say, we need to move on, regardless.

So, here goes…

September was National Suicide Awareness and Prevention month. Did you do anything to help save someone’s life? Did you try to give hope to another soul? To try to make them smile, feel seen, feel validated? Feel needed? Feel alive?

With all the things we celebrate in the month of October: National ADHD month, National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and one week: October 10 through 17 for National Mental Health Awareness week, and so on, we continue to have our hands full, and the need for compassion, vulnerability, fearlessness and authenticity is never-ending.

This month, I would like to celebrate my successful outing with my first ever Dr. Lulu’s Stop Suicide Now! Summit that took place on September 26th, 2020! We had close to 40 humans sign up, and about 2/3 to attend! The Speakers were “ahmayzeen”, I know all the attendees’ lives were touched, and hopefully someone was saved. Check out this fact sheet we created for the event.

We learned a lot, new connections were made…and…it is officially going to become an annual event! YAY! All glory be to God. To order your copy of the nearly 41/2 hours of recording of the event, simply send an email of your request to askdoctorlulu@gmail.com or send your payment of $37 by clicking this link to my PayPal account.

I am also delighted to share that the month of September had me as a speaker on my very first TEDx talk! YAAAASSSS!!!! It was in Alief, a suburb of Houston. Shout out to my peeps there! Check them out and everything else they are up to by clicking this link right HERE. The official video link is not out yet, but, stay tuned, you are first on my list to know. It is titled : Why Do Our Children Kill Themselves? (NOT What You Think), cool, huh? Check me out below in action!

As far as self improvement during this last quarter of 2020 goes, I have decided to sign up for a formal certification as a life coach! I truly enjoy listening to people’s stories and helping them get unstuck; set achievable goals, guide them and then watch them soar! So, I guess wish me luck, huh?

This past month also saw a HUGE growth in my podcast listenership following my appearance as a speaker for the global podfest event! They went for and broke the guiness book of records for attendance >100K registrants! I also hope the impact of my podcast will be felt, ‘cos that’s my main M.O. I have caught up with all my previous recordings from 2019, and am now finally uploading new 2020 episodes! I am doing a mix of my COVID-19 Doctor Chronicles, and fresh interviews for the podcast itself. As you know, it’s called Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, and we talk about LIFE!

This past week for instance, I had an amazing guest on. Her name is Dr. Christine B. L Adams. A Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist, in practice for over 40 years! She educated us on something I had never heard about: Emotional Conditioning. An amazing concept that explains how the way we were emotionally raised, affects the way we all act/react to situations. And best of all, she only uses TALK THERAPY, NO MEDS! A girl after my own heart! Listen to her episode HERE, and let me know what you think.

One other interesting guest I had this past month was Dr. Bernie Fernandez, another veteran Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who validated my longtime thought process when he said, “If you don’t have clinical depression, antidepressants cannot protect you from suicide.” BOOM!!! I have known that for so long, but hearing him say those words were like the “Sound of Music” to me! His episode can be heard HERE.

As always, if you find my podcast episodes interesting, simply do me three favors 🙂

  1. Subscribe
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  3. Leave a review. Here is how to on Apple podcasts/Itunes.

My latest book “How to Teach Your Children About Racism“, has continued to do well. We are now at 59 5-Star reviews! Woot woot!! But even better, it received an ALL STAR 5-STAR rating from Readers Favorites, an independent book reviewer. All because I took a chance and wrote a blog, and y’all liked and shared and shared! Thanks to you my readers!

I wouldn’t end this blog post without thanking each and everyone of you for your continued support of me and my mission to end youth suicide by the year 2025! I have also continued to have a lot of support from fellow podcasters and bloggers alike. Various platforms and conferences, and book clubs and such, and this month shall not be different.

Next weekend, on 10/10/2020, I shall be the Keynote Speaker on another upcoming suicide prevention event. It is primarily going to be towards Nigerians, happening in Nigeria, organized by Nigerians, but, since it is virtual, it is technically global. I’d love to see you join me there. See flyer and register HERE… It’s Free!

Aiight, that’s all I have for now. Remember, I just had C-Spinal surgery barely 2 weeks ago! Thanks for all the love and kindness, gifts and get well wishes towards me…Y’all please stay well, wear your masks and do stay safe and don’t forget to vote your conscience come next month.

Until we “see” again, chew on this original quote of mine:

“A suicide attempt is never a cry for attention, it is always a cry for help”

BB

RIP Chad Boseman aka Ebubedike

Igbo Kwenu! Yaaa!! Nigeria Kwenu Yaaa!!! Uwanile Kwezuenu Yaaa!!!!

Every once in a while, you encounter a stranger, but strangely, you feel like you already know them.

That person to me, was the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman.

Each time I looked at him, I saw an Igbo man. I generally don’t watch too much television, or movies for that matter, but he got me to watch the Black Panther movie not once, twice, but three times!

I will confess that he did not quite nail the African accent in his memorable role as King T’Challa, but between his gap teeth, easy smile and dark chocolate tint, he made my heart flutter each time he appeared on the screen.

Yes, as far as bodily features and physique go, Killmonger had one, ok, two on him, but, Chad was electrifying on screen, and since the BP movie was my very first time seeing him ever, I was hooked!

He had an easiness about him. His stride. His thick dark coils. His eyes. His eyes.

This past weekend was such an emotional roller coaster for me, like many people of color and our allies, we have watched as things have continued to deteriorate on the streets on Amerikkka, but nothing could have prepared me for his death.

I was already greatly saddened by Mr. Blake’s shooting, and the inhumane way he was treated at the hospital. The pockets of unrest, the increase in boldness of the Karens and others like them, the nut job we have for a president, the death toll of Covid-19 and everything in between were already bothering me big time.

To top it up, my two eldest sons both returned to college (one to grad school and one to undergrad) in the past couple of weeks. I also happened to have had the added adventure and trauma of being a Black female, and mother of 3 Black boys with the added layer of trauma as their primary provider.

So, you get that my stress level was already at a semi-high place. And with the loss of 2 super heros (Black Mamba and Black Panther) within the space of 6 months is a huge blow to the African Americans, period!

In honor of the Black Panther, I have written a list of what I am calling “Lessons I Learned From Ebubedike aka T’Challa, aka Chadwick Boseman.” Enjoy!

1/ Live For Today: While I never really knew him, somehow I think that he lived each day in the last four years to the fullest. I, like most of us have found out that he apparently starred in multiple movies for the 4 years that followed his diagnosis.

2/ Live For Now: Like #1, I know, he did everything in his power to enjoy his every minute of every hour of the time he had left on earth, and luckily, he took us along with him on the journey.

3/ Make Your Mark: We must live our lives to leave a mark on this earth. Like I say all the time, when you meet people, you must leave the best piece of you behind with them. Make your mark on this earth. Start where you are.

4/ Be Unstoppable: Once you find your purpose, and you get on your path, become unstoppable! He was so good at what he did. He fought to the end. He was unstoppable in his brilliance!

5/ Take Every Opportunity to Do Good: Whether he knew it or not, he exemplified taking opportunities to do good, and he was good at it. He made us fall in love with a him, easily, he was not only a hero, he was also a Black super-hero.

6/ Smile: I have seen pictures of him not smiling, but the pictures that have been etched in my heart are those with him flashing his gap teeth in a smile. Such a handsome young man with such an infectious smile.

7/ Make People Happy: Did King T’Challa make us happy? Yes! Did he make his family happy? Yes! Did he make the world a happier place? Absofreakinlutely! Making people happy is much easier than you think!

8/ Make Yourself Happy: Yes! Do make yourself happy. Wear your mask first. Fill your cup first. Something tells me Ebubedike always made himself happy by making a tough decision to show up 100% of the time in all his roles, despite his pain and suffering.

9/ Challenge Yourself! This was probably one of the most important things he did. He challenged himself everyday to do something meaningful, knowing his time was limited. What about you? When was the last time you challenged yourself to do something meaningful?

10/ Do It! Just Do It! Yep, I know for a fact that he “just did it” He simply did what he knew needed to be done! How many times have you had a project or a deadline, or something that needed to be done, but didn’t do it? Why? Because you think/thought you had time? Well, he KNEW he DIDN’T have time. So, he just did it.

11/ Be the one: Be the go-to “guy”. Be the person who we all want to go to for it. For life, for service, for laughter, for what we need. Would you, could you be the one?

12/ Be the best: At this time, it is not even a matter of whether he won awards or not. While I have not seen any more of his flicks, and I know for sure that I can’t bring myself to watch it, I know he was the absolute best at what he did. And I am proud of him for that.

13/ Play hard and live like today is your last day! Ooooh, if I could get a penny for every time I heard that, I would be a millionaire now! I am going to learn to play hard these days. I know it will be hard, but it is doable. Think about it, how could would it be if you were able to live each day like it was truly YOUR LAST!

14/ Stay true to yourself! I honestly believe that this was him in the truest sense of the word. He was honest and true. And it showed in the way he conducted himself during his last 4 years of life.

15/ FIGHT! FIGHT!! FIGHT!!! I don’t think any one needs convincing that he was a fighter! He fought to the last breathe, and as far as I am concerned, he won! So, let’s go forth and fight like the Black Panther did!

16/ Die hard: What I really want to say here is, die hardest! There is no doubt that it must have been really hard staring death in the eye. But he did it, without fear. He went about his business, doing what he had to do with a vengeance knowing death was eminent.

17/ Breathe: I know, that is the watch-word now, thanks to George Floyd. But seriously, find times in the day when you can breathe easily. Find moments that take your breath away, look for them, they are there.

18/ Know: Get to know yourself and to know what time it is. In my heart, I know he knew exactly what he was up against. He knew every single detail of every single thing that mattered in his life. You, my friend should be in the know.

19/ Believe: in yourself. That is the best strategy. He was sick, but he believed in himself. He knew exactly what and who he was, and believed he could pull off that many movies AFTER he was diagnosed with terminal illness. If you only believe in yourself…

20/ Be brave: Look fear in the eye. Be fearless, be bold, be brave. Yes, be brave enough to do that which you would have never believed you could achieve. Regardless of what it is, if you are brave, you can conquer

21/ Ask for help: Yes indeed, it is brave to ask for help. A friend of mine once said “it is easier to say yes, than to say I need help”. That means we need to learn how to ask for help. Period. Don’t assume we can read your mind…:)

Now, please enjoy this poem I wrote for him on my Facebook page on Saturday.

Such a beautiful smile

Such a good soul

Such strong laughter

Such a brave heart

Such a great actor

Such a resilient person

Such a SUPER HERO!

Such a Black man

Such a Black son

Such an exemplary American

Such pain you went through fighting one of the worst diagnoses of all

Such bravado in the face of the inevitable, as you gave us some of the best out of Hollywood

Such a wonderful ambassador of mother Africa

Such hot tears running down my cheeks as I write this

Such a blessing to have “known” you

Such a good and restful sleep you’ll now have, as you close your eyes this one last time

Such a sweet reunion with your friend, Black Mamba

Such a painful goodbye dear Black Panther

Dr. L

BB

15 Commandments on How to Teach Your Children About Racism

Dear Blog,

Hmmm, it has been one of those weeks… One of those months. One of those series of days in my life when I think I am in a twilight zone, and that all the things going on around me are not real. How have you been? I know, it’s been a minute. I am sorry. I have honestly had a lot on my mind. But I am back now, so let’s get this party started.

As parents, we are in the driver’s seat. As if the quarantine and lockdown were not stressful enough, due to the recent happenings mainly here in the United States, we have now come face to face with the reality of our poor, no, sorry state of race relations. Even if you don’t live in the US, you are still required to do what is right by your kids in regard to teaching them about racial biases, prejudice, and systemic racism when necessary.

Do you know that racism and prejudice are mostly rooted in fear? Fear that comes from a lack of understanding? Yes. Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads people to draw the wrong conclusions, and soon those conclusions become their truth. And then they are ruled by a concept based on falsehoods like all Black men are a threat, before you know it, it becomes a system and a “way” of doing things and that’s when the cookie crumbles.

Yeah, I know, having that conversation about race is one that some people have neither ever had, nor want to have (but obviously need to), while others find themselves having the conversation nearly every day in their lives. Well, it has to start, and the time is now. Things must begin to change. The world is actually witnessing just how dangerous being “color blind, or color neutral” can be. An issue Blacks have dealt with for years.

You see, what happened to George Floyd, can literally only happen in Amerikkka, oops, my bad, America. For over 400 years Blacks in America have continued to work more than twice as hard to be recognized half as much. The dehumanization must stop! And those who are silent now, MUST examine their why. Some much-needed soul-searching must be on everyone’s to-do list…now!

Sadly, our children are caught in the cross-fire. The other day I asked the following question on my Facebook page: What would happen if we put 10 children in a room for 10 minutes? The answers were interesting. The kids will start playing with each other right away. But if you performed the same experiment with grown-ups, they will either say nothing, or team up according to some categories, preconceptions, and even misconceptions about each other.

So, inspired by a Facebook post that a friend of mine tagged me on, I decided to write to you today, with my thoughts on how parents should approach the elephant in the room: The talk about race, with their young’uns. Enjoy! And do leave me a comment to let me know what you think.

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1/ Thou shalt first become comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations with thyself, before ever trying to have them with any other person. Yes, at this point in our earthly lives, we must as a matter of urgency get into that space of vulnerability and face our fears and insecurities. Dig deep to figure out why we are uncomfortable and get past that point with intention and focus.

2/ Thou shalt educate thyself properly, and gather all the facts that thou might need, and yet not have, before embarking on any such discussions with thy children. Children are smart, they will see through your charade. They are already learning about it or hearing about it, so you might as well be their guide. I know that talking about race can be sensitive, and yes, even a bit messy, but the other option is not an option, so just buckle up and do it.

3/ Thou shalt ensure that thy abode is racist-free. Remember, information can be conveyed by thoughts, words or deeds, and thy kids will absorb them all from thee. Yes, you might be racist, your words might be racist, or your actions might be racist and you might not even be aware of it, but your kids will, and then it might be too late for them to unlearn the bad lessons.

4/ Thou shalt first find out from thy kids what they already know about racism (if age applicable) before proceeding with the teaching. A simple question and answer session will suffice. There is no point in building a house upon a faulty foundation. First, dig up the old one, find out what the kids know, reteach them the correct information, and then proceed with teaching them new things.

5/ Thou shalt expose thy kids to other cultures, by visiting their museums, their churches, or attending civic events organized by them. There is no better way to get immersed in African American, Jewish, Native American, or Hispanic history than by visiting their museums, civic centers, places of worship, or one of the many events these cultural communities often hold in a city near you. The time is now! Summer is on its way, so, put on your masks and get going!

6/ Thou shalt endeavor to cook, order-in, or learn about foods of other ethnicities. This is a must! Humans are social beings, we love to eat during celebrations. So, when next you go to visit your Nigerian friend perhaps (wink wink), ask about fufu ati efo riro, jollof rice with “shikin”, fried plantains (dodo), isiewu  (goat head delicacy), ofensala (fish pepper soup), or nkwobi (cow foot delicacy) to name a few. These are seriously tasty mouth-watering meals that you can only learn about by having an open mind. Take it from me, they are all #delish!

7/ Thou shalt listen to music and learn dance moves from other cultures…yes, thou must! 🙂 I told you to have an open mind. While I wouldn’t necessarily ask you to learn the acrobatic nkpokiti, or break-dancing, it is certainly time to expand from your line dancing days to something else that is fun and exposes a whole new world to you. Your kids will love the moves, the melody, and the novelty, and they can brag about their new skills to their friends. This could also be a form of a bonding exercise for y’all.

8/ Thou shalt encourage thy kids to make friends with, and visit homes of kids of other races, and have them visit your home in return. Get to know their parents, and learn a thing or two about their history and upbringing. Extend a hand of friendship. Offer to take their kids to a game, pick them up from school or even buy them dinner. Get out of your comfort zone a bit. Live just a little bit, you might even like it 😉

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9/ Thou must become acutely aware of the microaggression some things you do or say can cause to people of other races. Like calling me the nurse or “miss”, when my name tag clearly says MD or asking me where I went to medical school, or wondering how my English is so good, or not trying at all to pronounce my name after I have told you how to say it…more than once! And do try to let your guard down when I am in the room. I don’t bite. Oh, and…STOP touching my hair, this is not Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!

10/ Thou shalt police thyself, thy relatives, and thy kids with purpose, intention, and mindfulness. Yes, you must ensure that you are not perpetuating intolerance, hate, or prejudice in any way. You know your family members who are racist. Everyone does. You must be bold, take action, and police them. Speak up. We are tired of being tired of being tired. You must have “the talk” with your family and friends. And if they choose to be silent, I suggest you re-evaluate your relationship with them.

11/ Thou shalt endeavor to learn a foreign language, preferably a language in Africa. Thou shalt also teach said language to thy kids. Yes, spread your wings, fly far away to the land of communication and understanding. To the land of open-mindedness and love. Because learning a new language will help you understand, and when you understand there will be no fear, and when there is no fear, there is no racism.

12/ Thou shalt visit the predominantly Black part of the city or town thou lives in…with thy kids in tow. Get to see what life is like over there. You might begin to gain a bit of empathy, compassion, understanding, and maybe even respect. Your daughters want to date our sons, and that’s a fact. You might as well get to know where she will be hanging out, and get ready to have soul food at the wedding 🙂

13/ Thou shalt teach thy child to recognize bullying behavior and speak up when other kids are being bullied, especially on account of their race. Bullying is a catalyst for suicide, and it is a serious problem in our schools (stay tuned for my next book out in a few weeks, it tackles bullying head-on). Teach them to find the kids who are ostracised and sit with them on the school bus, at the cafeteria, or play with them at recess. That will go a long way towards ending the current epidemic of youth suicide.

14/ Thou shalt not make a mockery or joke about any person who is different from you on account of their race, and neither should your kids. Yes, don’t discuss their skin tone, their kinky hair, their body type or any other physical attribute that pertains to their race, except in a good light. Or if they let you. I don’t really care much for people touching my hair to know what it “feels like”, that’s actually an intrusion.

15/ Thou shalt ensure that all the above are adhered to, and from time to time, check in with your kids to assess for progress. Yes, you must also continue to work on yourself and on your family members like Karen, Becky, Amy, Stephanie, Derek, Gregory, and Travis. There is much work to be done. Policing the police is not enough, we must also police ourselves, our thought processes, and mindsets lest we remain imprisoned by them.

“The only way, to really talk about race and racism, is by activating a growth mindset.” ~Amber Colemen-Mortely

I say “The only way to talk about it, is to freakin’ talk about it”

Cheers!

BB

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19 Things Your Family Can Do During The Covid-19 Furlough…

You might be like me and have teenage or young adult children, and be wondering what you can do now that school is out (likely for a month, maybe indefinitely), to stay active or keep them occupied while the local authorities, etc make an attempt to curtail the spread of the Corona Virus. If so, then this blog might be for you. 

I enlisted my 15-year-old son to assist me in compiling this list, my hope is that you find the activities easy enough, fun enough and applicable enough to help you bond, communicate and create memories that are sure to outlast Covid-19. 

My ultimate wish, of course, is that by engaging in these activities, your teens will feel visible, loved, appreciated and engaged by you. They will feel like their lives matter. Like they are giving back, and in turn, find fewer reasons to engage in self-harm, or hurt themselves. Studies like this one or this that cite meaningful adult-teen relationships as the backbone for resiliency and thriving in adolescents are behind my thought process in this, so I am hoping to empower you, parents, to go for it. Engage fully and unconditionally with your teens during this forced break, and I shall join you at the finish line to celebrate the victory with you. The good news is most of these activities can be done at home with little or no money spending involved. Another good news is that they will mostly make y’all feel good afterward. 

Below is a link to watch the Facebook live video I recorded concerning this, and further below is a concise list and discussion of the activities including a bonus number 20.

https://www.facebook.com/askdoctorlulu/videos/648139482586339/?t=0

Activities

1/ Go shopping together for groceries: This is a tried and tested process. As long as you are going to pick up only essentials and not purchasing more than you need. I recommend you go in and get out as fast as you can from the store. I do not recommend you purchase all the toilet paper, or all the hand sanitizer or gloves available at the store (like some people have resorted to). However, if you are stocking up to help the needy, then go ahead and do so. Don’t forget to stock up on fruits and vegetables, water, milk, and Vitamin C.

2/ Karaoke at home: I recommend you take turns with this. Each person gets to pick the genre of music and the song to sing to. Then you can switch the next day. This should be fun and will help loosen up tension and encourage easier communication. Those who would like to take it to the next level could dance instead, or better still, dance and sing together. Fun, fun, fun!

3/ Take a stroll around your neighborhood or your local greenway: For me, the outdoors are always beckoning me to come to play. I love the outdoors and never miss a chance to get out there. For some of you or your teens, you might require a little prodding. Grab your bug spray and get going. Keep the cellphones at home. This should be a deliberate attempt at bonding. Enjoying each others’ company.download

4/ Watch TV/Movies: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon prime movies, or simply your local TV stations should suffice. I love Jeopardy, but there are very many local shows, sitcoms, comedies, etc that you could watch together and discuss lessons learned from. Remember to get up and move around every 2 hours, ensure we are not sitting for a prolonged time each session to ward off any blood clots, or unnecessary eating/snacking.

5/ Board or Card games: This list is endless; from Scattergories to Scrabble, to Dominos, to Ludo, to 5-second Rule to Apples to Apples, Chess, Uno, Monopoly, Imaginiff, Heads, Night of the Werewolf, etc These are great for creating laughs, bonding, and overall wellbeing. ***Puzzles could also be added to this list. Soduko is another brain engaging game that families could play together. Many of these can all be downloaded from the internet.

6/ Cook or Bake together: This needs minimal explanation. Even if you don’t like cooking, I think it is a great bonding tool, because you can learn together. There are many cooks and chefs like my good friend Monika who has her own YouTube cooking channel who swear that cooking helps relieve stress… and I completely agree. So, grab your chef hats and aprons and let’s go!

7/ Story Time: This is the ultimate bonding activity. You, as the adult, could go first. This right here can serve as a tool for exploring your child’s experiences at school and at home. It could help uncover bullying, or other negative experiences we know takes place at school. For instance, you could talk about “uncomfortable things” that happened to you, or “weird things” that happened, “sad things”, happy things”, “scary things”, challenging things, etc.  I learned this tool from a FB friend during one of my daily QODs that I post on FB. Haven’t heard of it? Join the fun here.

8/ Help a neighbor out: Do you live near someone who could use a chaperone, some help with grocery shopping, lawn mowing, taking out their trash, or mail delivery? You and your teen could help out around the neighborhood, teens could even make a few bucks from that. Bottom line, when they are involved in selfless activities, they are less likely to engage in self-pity, self-harm or any negative self-thoughts/talk which might lead them down the path of destruction.

9/ Volunteer: Whether it be a shelter, a group home, a habitat for humanity home, the food bank, meals on wheels or elsewhere, the act of volunteering is the ultimate act of selflessness, and a great way to bond while doing something good for someone else, thus investing in yourself that much more. In this blog from a while back, I listed volunteering as a surefire way to keep your teens active in the summer. If it works during the summer, it would most certainly work now.

“A heart that volunteers is a heart of gold” ~ Dr. Lulu

10/ Exercise: What volunteering does for the soul, exercise does for heart and body. Exercising is the ultimate team activity, and by this I mean, going to your neighborhood volleyball pitch, or taking a kickboxing class together, going to the gym together, practicing yoga, swimming, jump rope, a game of basketball, you name it, the list can only grow longer. Bring back team spirit, fun, laughter and healthy competition to your home, you will be so glad you did.

photo of girl reading book

11/ Read together: Whether it be reviewing their schoolwork, leisure reading, or learning about something together, reading is one of the best ways to bond together. Remember when you used to read to them as kids? Well, let’s bring it back. Audiobooks are another awesome way to introduce group reading (if y’all can agree on what one book you should all read together, lol). Another idea is to spin a globe around, pick a random country and everyone reads about it for a later discussion.

12/ Pray together: For those who are into prayer, it is certainly a good way to focus on others (especially those who have been affected by, or afflicted with the virus). If you’d rather not pray, y’all can set aside a special time to meditate and practice mindfulness, to center yourselves and practice self-care. In one of my recent Facebook Lives, I introduced daily pulse checks (random points in the day when you and your teens can stop and perform a gratitude self-check) to help ward off those negative self-thoughts, and encourage a more gratitude-filled spirit.

13/ Eat together: It is no secret that a family that eats together, stays and thrives together. This is one habit that is fast fizzling out (even in my own home) as we all focus on individual thises and thats. Eating/breaking bread together is a family tradition that has its inception in the stone ages. We are slowly drifting away from it thanks to technology and personal devices. But we can all make a concerted effort to reserve 1-2 precious hours for deeply bonding and getting re-acquainted with each other. 

14/ Spring cleaning: If you live in Texas as I do, you will know that Spring has sprung for some of us. Temperatures have started increasing outdoors. And it is time to open up the shed, clean out the attic, and declutter your drawers and shelves. No, I don’t think your teens will altogether appreciate this, but keep your eyes on the prize. We are creating memories here. Nothing else. So let’s give it our best shot 🙂

15/ Plant a garden: Talking about cleaning out sheds, while you are in there, bring out your farming tools, and let’s get busy planting a garden. I have a small piece of soil next to my shed with adequate sunlight where I grow everything from Cilantro to corn, to tomatoes and even peanuts. My sons helped me dig it up and place the right soil when I first started. These days, I plant the seeds and nurture the plants, while they help with weeds and such. But you can divide out the work any which way you like as long as you do it together.father-daughter

16/ Video Games: Aaaaaah, I can’t even believe I am saying this…lol. As much as I dislike video games, I am recommending this because it has become a vital part of the average teenager’s life. My boys love video games, and I know how important this is to most teens today, so, if you are like me, and your kids love to game, then it is time to leave your comfort zone, roll up your sleeves, and get bonding. Leave your insecurities about video games behind, and go forth (I believe these words are meant for me:))

17/ Call and check in on family members and long lost friends: This is one sure way to keep the kids connected and re-acquainted with your (extended and nonextended) family members, close and not so close friends. Ensure they are calling or using facetime, not texting. Let them get back into the habit of actually speaking on the phone. It might need a little getting used to, but it will certainly create and increase family closeness.

18/ Adopt a pet: Many families already own pets, if you do, then this is a chance to get closer to the pet by taking turns to bath the pet, walk the pet, clean out their cages, and such. But if your family doesn’t own one, then this could be an opportunity to visit a pet store and adopt one. Ensure the topic is well discussed and y’all are in agreement of what type of pet to get, and whose responsibility it is to care for it. Take heed from someone who now has the awesome responsibility of walking our pet, Lulu every weekday…

19/ Journal about this experience: The entire Covid-19 thing is a brand new experience for all of us. I absolutely love to journal, so, I recommend you and your teen journal about your experience through all this. How has it helped your relationship? How has it impacted everyone? Has it been worth it? Any life lessons learned? You can take turns reading your entries weekly, or you cannot if you don’t want to share. Either way, carving out a set time daily to journal would be a great addition to your daily bonding activities. 

BONUS

20/ Travel! In ending, I will ask that this should not be anything that should be expensive. It is sometimes the most exciting activity, but, as you know, this could also be a stressful time for some if care is not taken to plan it out well and deliver it right. Traveling can be a source of learning, of growing and of bonding as a family as a whole. My advice is to try all of the above options first before embarking on traveling in order to ensure that you are already very connected firmly before you do it. Enjoy!

PS: One of my favorite things to do these days is to inspire and teach parents of teens. I love engaging with them on a granular level about their parenting. After so many years as a pediatrician and parent coach, I have not only shared in your pain but also come out successful on the other side. So, I went to work, and created a handful of online courses to help you with some of the pains I have struggled with and now able to enjoy parenting by surmounting them. Check them out here, and don’t forget to share all this information with your friends. 😉

See you on the inside.

“A family that stays together, thrives together” ~ Dr. Lulu

BB

photo of people doing fist bump

To Bryce…

 

“…he was acting strange, talking a mile a minute, and kept asking his mom large questions about life. He wanted to know if she and his brothers would be OK in his absence.”      ~South Florida Sun-Sentinel

In my brand new Amazon bestselling book, A Teen’s Life, I discuss teen suicide to the best of my ability. One of the teens in that book is Damiko, a football player who finds himself on the wrong side of the law, after making some tough decisions to help him deal with life’s curveballs, mainly to help his family. He naturally begins to doubt himself and ends up on the suicide spectrum. This is a not too uncommon thought-process and mindset for most of us when we are feeling overwhelmed, anguished and trapped amongst other things, as life continues to deal (as it likes) with us.

I begin with Damiko’s story because it is what I am calling “real” fiction. Just this week, we saw my fiction imitate real life in none other than Bryce Gowdy, a football star on his way to the top, with a full ride to Georgia Tech. A life cut short by train tracks. A life cut short by suicide.

While reading his story in the news outside the post office a few days ago, I kept yelling “he left signs!” “He left signs!”…repeatedly, as I cried my eyes out.

Yes, that poor kid, my son, our son, left signs all over the place, but unfortunately, those around him did not know them, or did not recognize them, and thus did not act.

Several weeks ago, another Florida teen walked into another pair of train tracks to his death. (“His death contributes to the roughly two teens in Florida who take their lives each week, and is the second in about a month to do so by train”.)

While most news often connect mental illness to majority of suicides, it is unclear if our latest victim of suicide contagion (defined as the process by which the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide can result in an increase in suicidal behaviors and suicide in persons at risk, usually adolescents), had any issues with mental illness in his past (no diagnosis is stated), what we do see though, is that he suffered from severe mental anguish (aka emotional distress) and despair in his last days. (Despair is defined as a profound and existential hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness and pessimism about life and the future. Despair is a deep discouragement and loss of faith about one’s ability to find meaning, fulfillment, and happiness.)

This article is not meant to argue about mental illness, and its contribution to suicide, it is, however, meant to showcase the fact that most suicide victims DO suffer severe mental anguish with severe reactive depression (aka situational depression) following significant life’s trauma, which in Bryce’s case was extreme poverty and homelessness. These factors confounded the natural anxiety he was already experiencing about leaving his suffering family and going off to college (college jitters), and the helplessness he felt about his inability to “save his family”.

If you are reading this, then you would agree that it was all a bit much for anyone, let alone a young adolescent.

So why does anyone kill themselves?

Image result for bryce gowdy

Why did a young gifted and talented athlete do this? The truth is that ultimately, we may never know his real reasons. However, a psychological postmortem would definitely bring in all the above factors and maybe even unearth more.

What role does resiliency (or the lack thereof) play in suicides? Are suicide victims truly weak? Are they truly “quitters”? Like a friend mentioned on a Facebook comment recently. Is it truly easy to end one’s life?

As one who has struggled in my past with suicidal ideations (SI), I know just how hard, overwhelming and lonely that street is. I know that the world looks at you with tinted lenses when you mention that “S” word. I know all the stigma, shame and silence that accompany it. I know no one wants to talk about it. Ironically though, talking about it is just what this doctor orders. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has the #silencekills and #talksaveslives hashtags for this particular reason. We MUST talk about these issues. We must call its name, SUICIDE, so as to take its sting and strength away, or at least diminish them.

*In teens specifically, adolescence brings unique challenges that often confound life’s experiences, so they have a tendency to succumb easier to SI.

IS PATH WARM is a mnemonic used to list the signs of suicidal behavior, but, I am quick to state that in youth like in our young teen, Bryce, signs might not be as organized or as obvious. Simply acting differently from the norm; becoming more agitated, giving away their stuff, asking and verbalizing about death, losing sleep, becoming more reckless, buying a gun, writing a suicide note, becoming suddenly happier, calmer, or simply saying goodbye, etc, could be signs of suicidal behavior. We as parents and as adults around them must be vigilant. The list below is of factors that lead to suicidality in youth, an excerpt from A Teen’s Life.

● A history of bullying ● Relationship issues like breakups ● Previous suicide attempt* ● LGBTQ+ sexual orientation ● Access to lethal weapons in the home ● Behavior problems like ADHD/ADD ● Poverty ● Socioeconomic/sociocultural oppression ● Institutional racism ● Lack of access to treatment and support for mental illness ● Substance Abuse ● Microaggressions like police brutality and racial profiling ● Social Media ● Lack of Support at home and at school ● Suicide in peers and in the community (suicide contagion) *A prior suicide attempt is the strongest risk factor for a suicide death*

Reading the article, it was quite obvious that he was faced with what appeared to be “unsurmountable” life’s challenges to him. If he had only waited a few more days. If he hadn’t had that train track beckoning. If he only knew the future…if, if, if. But, he had no way of seeing the future, he had no way of knowing the outpouring of love from the world to his family following his ultimate sacrifice. He had no way of knowing how much I cried when I read his story. He had no way of knowing that much like his mother, I also have three sons, and I am a Black woman in America, and I care. For him, at that moment, he felt he had used up all his options, and death was the only choice he had…and then there was a means: a train, and a history of a recent teen death by another train.

A brave child who carried the weight of his family’s troubles on his young shoulders. A brave soul who wanted the best for his family. A boy, a teen who actually reached out, but not quite far enough to save him. A young man seeking answers, but finding death in its stead. We preach reach out all the time, the question then becomes, “what if folks reach out and no one responds?”

Apparent unsurmountable life’s challenges, feelings of entrapment, overwhelmedness, helplessness, and hopelessness…these are the ingredients for suicide.

RIP Bryce, you fought the good fight.

Image result for bryce gowdy"

“Parents, please, know the signs of suicidal behavior. Our kids DO leave signs”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

 

BB

 

 

Nigeria in 10days; Becoming an International Speaker, Pt 1

“If you BElieve it, you can BE it. I BElieved it, so I AM it.”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

“Be careful what you ask for, cos you might get it.”

I daresay I have become an embodiment of that quote. When I turned 50 in March of 2019, one of my birthday wishes was to become an international speaker. I had absolutely no idea how that was going to happen, I knew no one on any international stage, but I believed in myself, and I knew I not only had a story to tell, but also a message (an urgent one at that) to deliver.

Looking back now, the only ingredient I needed besides having the message, was the belief in myself. Many of you reading this may not know that I quit my regular pediatrician job late 2018 to start speaking on hot topics that affect our youth, particularly our teens. I had initially wanted to only focus on teen depression, but the universe steered me in the direction of bullying, and now specifically to youth suicide. With the help of social media, particularly Facebook, I am slowly becoming the go-to gal for all things concerning suicide in our youth.

As heavy as the topic is, and as difficult as the job of spreading awareness and educating the world on youth suicide is, I knew someone had to do it, and that person might as well be me. Since I love to write, my journey began with this personal blog I started, to share my thoughts and experiences with the world. I also created a website, http://www.teenalive.com, an online resource dedicated to teen wellness, and started looking into how best to get my voice and my face at the venue, at the table and on the menu.TEEN ALIVE logo

Following a suicide attempt by my then 7yr old patient in May of 2018, I decided to quit traditional pediatric practice and start speaking publicly about child and youth suicide. I had no idea how loud, or how far my voice would reach. I had no idea what the process of doing so would be. No idea how the world would receive the information, if anyone would notice, or even care. All I had was a heart full of concern and compassion for my patients and doctor colleagues (amongst others) who were choosing death over life daily.

In June of 2018, following the advice of a business coach, I recorded my very first Facebook live video. It was awkward, it was surreal, it was uncomfortable, but I did it. And I connected to an eager audience that I had no idea was out there. They included family members, friends, parents, teachers, counselors, fellow empaths and many others in between. Propelled by the success of my Facebook live videos, I started entertaining the thought of becoming first, a National Keynote Speaker, then an International Speaker. I knew my message was needed, but I had no idea how urgently.

In October of 2018, I landed my first Keynote speech on a National stage in Charlotte NC. It was for the 6th National Convention of the Black Doctoral Network, I was invited to speak on suicide in young adults. How exciting! I couldn’t believe my luck! I have heard luck defined as opportunity meeting determination and preparedness, so off I went to a very successful first National talk. That boosted my confidence SO much that I returned from that event, a changed person. To prepare for it, I watched dozens of talks on YouTube, listened to many speaking coaches, PowerPoint slide experts, and even listened to a book on TED talks! I designed and created my very first slides, delivered the talk straight from my heart, and boy did I connect with the audience! At the end, I had a long line of attendees waiting to share their depression and suicide stories with me. Through all of that, I noted I did not have a book to sell, as I watched other speakers for the event sign their own books, #wakeupcall.

After that experience, I vowed to have a book to sell at my next speaking event. I had already started working on an idea of a book on teen suicide at that time, but it was still in its infancy and it was taking me a while to get my thoughts together. I hired a book-writing coach and started putting the outline and my thoughts together on paper.A Teen's Life

In November of 2018, I landed another speaking opportunity to discuss depression and suicide in the elderly. I dedicated it to my own aging parents, and had a blast delivering it. I believe that was the day I finally decided I was officially a “speaker,” and that-that first talk in Charlotte, NC was not a fluke. But, I still didn’t have a book!

In January of 2019, my new year resolution was to add the word “Author” to my name. Early that month, I traveled to South East Asia on a class trip with my UTSA Executive MBA cohort. I knew each leg of the trip would last between 14 to 18 hours, so I decided I would use that time to finish my book. As it turned out, the book on teen depression needed a LOT of research which I was unable to pull off on the airplane, so I decided to write a short parenting guide based on one of my more successful Facebook Live videos called “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, the book, a bestseller, is available on Amazon.

I took advantage of the couple of afternoons we had to ourselves during the trip, to work on transcribing and writing the book, and I used most of the flight back home to edit it. Upon returning, I found beta readers who gave me their honest corrections and their blessings. With my innate dislike for computers and most things tech, it was an uphill task, but I worked really hard learning everything I could about formatting and uploading a book to Amazon KDP, and by the end of February 2019, a bestseller was born!

Enter March, my 50th birthday. I decided to host an event for parents and teens, called Dr. Lulu's PYT SA Family-2Dr. Lulu’s PYT (Parenting Your Teen) Workshop, in San Antonio, Texas. I had never done anything like that before, and I was naturally a bit anxious and a lot afraid of what the reception would be like. I wanted to have an event where parents and their teens could come together and learn how to communicate better, to avoid most of the issues that arise and often lead teens to take an unwanted turn. I hoped for 100 attendees, my speaking coach called it ambitious, but I called it dreaming big. My younger brother told me when I first consulted him about my dreams to start a speaking business that, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough”, I listened, and I heard him. My dream was to host the event in up to 5 cities across the United States.

I graduated from my Executive MBA program in May with honors! I then spent the next few weeks working on planning my second PYT Workshop, this time, in Lancaster SC, where I once owned and operated a pediatric practice. It happened early June. My attendance was double that from my first, and I was overjoyed. I had speakers, poets, dancers, and breakout sessions. My heart was full, and I was encouraged to continue my quest to do a 5-city workshop event.

Later in June, an opportunity to guest-speak on a virtual international stage presented itself, and I jumped in with two feet! My audience was online and scattered across the globe. That was my first taste of the international stage, albeit virtual, and I loved it! I knew then that my original dream to speak internationally, live on a stage, was going to come true. I just had to work diligently towards it. June also had me speaking for the first time to a room full of Nigerian Physicians as a Hot Topics guest speaker!Anpa suicide talk.PNG That singular (unpaid) opportunity has opened so many doors for me!

By July, I had hosted my third installment of Dr. Lulu’s PYT, this time in Dallas, Texas. And August had me doing another one in San Antonio to round up a total of 4, one less than the original 5 I had planned (not too bad). But July was also a very special month because, it was the month that welcomed my podcast, Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, now available on up to 10 different platforms with nearly 3000 downloads as I write this. In keeping with my mission to create awareness for suicide in youth, I mostly interview people who are “talking their walk” with suicide, suicidal ideations or suicidal attempts. I talk with everyone and anyone kind and brave enough to share their stories with my audience.

In September, during one of my Facebook Live videos, I interviewed a young woman who is the CEO of Africa’s Mental Health Matters. A non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness for mental ill-health in Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how I received my official invitation to be a guest speaker at their second annual convention on Mental Health in Africa, to be held in December 2019, in non-other than Lagos, Nigeria! BOOM! #InternationalSpeaker!Naija 6

November was a very special month. It marked my first ever grand rounds teaching opportunity! I was the guest lecturer at Richmond University Medical Center at Staten Island, NY. This was a ripple effect of my talk in DC, and it was never even on my to-do list…but it was sooooo welcome! I went to NY, dressed in my signature red, NY!and killed it on that stage! That already yielded follow up lecture AND, a second invite from another department in that same hospital…#success! I also started working diligently on finishing up my second book as a matter of urgency in order to have it ready for my trip to Nigeria in December.

All this while, I have continued to speak at schools: to teachers, counselors, PTAs and students. I guest speak at civic events across the state of Texas. I guest blog, and interview on radio stations, TV stations and podcasts across the country, and, I am currently looking at an opportunity to produce my own TV show in San Antonio, TX. I trademarked my brand name, Dr. Lulu, and I opened my own private practice where I only attend to high-risk teens in a direct primary care (DPC) model. Oh, and I finally completed the book on youth suicide! It’s called “A Teen’s Life.” I pulled it off, just prior to traveling overseas for my international speaking gig! It is available on Amazon and on my website: www.teenalive.com/books.

I am writing this blog to encourage someone out there to not only dream, but dream BIG! My ultimate goal is to become the United Nations’ speaker on Youth Suicide. That position does not currently exist, but, I am claiming it… I ask you to set goals and work towards them. Have an open mind, be committed and stay positive. Take feedback and allow yourself to edit your journey (as frequently as needed) along the way. Reach out to as many people as possible, and… stay… focused! Look at failures and disappointments as opportunities and building blocks, not obstacles or roadblocks. Resist the urge to allow self-doubt and negativity to come in. Don’t listen to the voices inside telling you-you are not good enough, cos they will come in and get comfortable if you allow them. Continue to forge ahead with determination, an attitude of success, AND UNWAVERING SELF-BELIEF.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this story, where I discuss my trip in full detail. See you then!

PS: “You are enough”  ~ Dr. Lulu®

BB

 

12 Myths About Suicide

grayscale photography of man sitting beside wall
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Blog,

I know I have been neglectful of you, and even somewhat insensitive of your needs, but I have a great reason, I promise you will be so proud of me! I am nearly done with my second book, and my days and nights have been consumed with trying to put the final touches with editing and such, you know how it is…:)

Today, I would like to share a piece of the book with you!

So, first off, the book is called A Teen’s Life. It looks at the lives of 10 different teenagers from across the globe. They are sharing their stories and struggles with me in a Dear Dr. Lulu format. I respond to their letters as best I can, and then I discuss their situations. It is statistics-heavy, it is sad and deep, but it is real. The stories are all real, but fictitious at the same time. It is essentially about youth suicide in a sense, but it is also about life, teen life. I am hoping that it serves as an eye-opener to the struggles of these youth, and hoping its readers (teens, parents, caregivers, the government, everyone) will come away with a better sense of understanding of the plight of teens and some simple but not necessarily easy solutions to tackle them.

Here is an excerpt from it. This is the portion that deals with myths about suicide. I am really proud of this…enjoy!

Before we embark on what we can all do to prevent suicide in our teens and youth, I think it is only proper to discuss some of the myths about suicide that are floating around. Debunking them will help increase awareness of their falsehood and help fill in some critical knowledge gaps.

hands people friends communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

  • Suicide is not a real problem; As we all know, suicide is a real problem in our world today, it is now the second leading cause of death in our youth.
  • Asking or talking to your teen about suicide causes suicidal behavior; Talking about suicide not only increases awareness and puts an end to the shame and stigma, but it also helps teens explore other options and keeps open communication lines.
  • The person/family needs more prayers and more Jesus; while having a sense of belonging to a community or spiritual group is always encouraged and actually protective of suicide it does not in of itself prevent suicide. However many suicidal persons have been known to say that when they reached out for help, they were told they were being dramatic and selfish and needed to pray more.
  • Religious persons do not die by suicide; just this past summer we heard about the young American pastor who was active in the mental health arena, who actually lost his life to suicide, there have been many others including a Nigerian pastor as well.
  • Denial: It does not happen to our ethnicity or family (Blacks, Asians); this thought process as we know is erroneous, and Black kids were recently documented as attempting and dying by suicide at a higher rate than other races.
  • Only a professional can identify a child at risk for suicide; one of the reasons for this book and my work in the suicide arena is to increase awareness by educating everyone about the signs so we are all more empowered.
  • Once someone is suicidal, they will always be suicidal; for the most part, suicidal thoughts and behavior are situational and temporary. Most suicidal persons need to know that their feelings can and do pass once they are equipped with the right tools to deal with their thoughts, and have the necessary support they need.
  • Only people with mental illness are suicidal; When I was going through my suicidal stage, I had never been diagnosed with mental illness, I did, however, experience a lot of life challenges which shook my core and caused me to consider myself a failure and not worthy of life. During the financial crisis of 2008, there was a sharp rise in suicides as a result of the enormous financial losses these people had experienced.
  • Most suicides happen suddenly and without warning; we know that 4 out of 5 teens who attempt suicide leave a sign. The decision to suicide is hardly ever a one-off thing, it is usually a culmination of events over time leading to “overwhelmedness”, an inability to cope, and a perceived or real lack of support.
  • Someone who is suicidal wants to die; in all honesty, most suicidal people do not want to die. They simply want their pain, suffering and despair to end. They often feel like they have exhausted all their options and they also have the means to end their lives at that moment.
  • Someone who is threatening suicide is not going to carry it out; I like to say “do not underestimate the power of determination”. We can never be too sure that someone will not carry out their threat. We must, therefore, take every suicide threat seriously. Part of the reason suicide is on the rise is because these people don’t feel they have any support, they feel all alone.
  • People who die by suicide are selfish and taking the easy way out; because these people have been suffering for a while, majority of them actually feel like suicide not only puts an end to their suffering, it also frees them from being a burden. Many suicide attempt survivors say they feel their lives are a burden to those around them.

All in all, suicide is a complex issue, but suicide prevention must be front and center in everyone’s minds in today’s world. To find out more, you will have to wait a couple more weeks for the actual book!

TTYS

BBIMG_0806

 

 

Dear Doctor, Do U DPC?

Dear Doctor,

I am sitting in my home office on a sunny Thursday afternoon, as I write this letter to you.

In the past year since I quit my full-time job as a pediatrician to start speaking on child, teen and young adult depression and suicide, (read about it here and here). I have discovered a different side of me. The side that loves to write, and speak. The side that is an activist for a cause. The side that was lying dormant until the passion to actively save the lives of children and teens through creating awareness was ignited when my then 7-year-old patient attempted to hang himself in May of 2018.

I have always known that medicine, pediatrics, in particular, is my life, and public speaking is second nature, so it was sort of a natural progression for me. I have never had any trouble speaking in public to air my opinion, so when this opportunity to practice medicine in the most preventative way picked me, I had no hesitation to say, a resounding…yes! As the good book says, “many are called, but only a few are chosen”.

Though I don’t know when it will get published, I couldn’t think of a better day to write this letter than today, the 12th day of September, two days after September 10, which is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day. This week marks National Suicide Prevention Week 9/8 to 9/14. A week which eerily includes September 11, a day suicide bombers set our country on a never to be forgotten path, a day that will forever go down in infamy, in the month of September, suicide awareness and prevention month.

backlit beautiful clouds country
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This letter is, however, not about suicide days and suicide bombers. It is about a path that has led me, a Nigerian-born mother of three, a board-certified pediatrician, to become a speaker, bestselling author, and activist on youth suicide. It is about how finding a new way to practice medicine is allowing me further my cause. Every time I tell people what I speak about, it never fails, they look up, and suddenly get interested, no matter what they were doing before I started speaking. Some look at me with concern, some look at me with disbelief, and yet some look at me with sorrow, especially when I tell them my story, my why, which you can read here. Usually, by the time I am done, a majority of my audience wants to know where they can find me, where I practice.

For the past year, my response to that line of questioning has been a combination of the following…” nowhere in particular”, “I don’t have a practice”, or “I quit medicine to speak publicly”. To which even more eyes look at me with a mix of wonder, pride, gratitude and amazement… and then after a brief thought, pretty much everyone says a combination of “that’s such an important topic” or “that’s so needed” or “wow, thank you for the work you are doing”, etc.

As I have continued to speak locally, around the country and internationally, and as the questions have continued to come in, I have had to finally admit to myself that I have missed practicing medicine. I have missed clinical practice, but most of all, I have missed having physical contact with my patients. Those who know me, know my patients are my “anti-kryptonite” (if that is a word). That been said, I have known in my heart that I did not want to go back to traditional medicine (what I call “assembly line” medicine). The kind that is run by CEOs with little or no knowledge of what it’s like to have boots on the ground. The kind that has enslaved us doctors and caused burnout to now become a household phrase. The kind that puts profit and the bottom line before patients and providers. The kind that you, me, we, did not sign up for. The kind we did not dream about in our days in medical school. The kind that has unfortunately driven too many of us (400 per year at last check) to early deaths through suicide. 

I knew that kind of medical practice was definitely no longer for me. So, I tried out Locums, but with my son still being in grade school, I am unable to travel out of town as much as most locum gigs would require, plus, I am only licensed in Texas so that limits me as well. I know the hospitalist route is not for me. So, while I was still pondering my next move, I happened upon a facebook group called DPC Docs. A two-thousand strong community of doctors practicing medicine on their own terms. I had actually heard of DPC about 2 years ago. Direct Primary Care. Three words that are turning out to be life-changing for those of us who care to look closer, look further and farther, think outside the box, and dare to be bold enough to say “enough already” to the big bosses and take back our lives.img_2524

I happily jumped in with two feet. You see, Direct Primary Care is exactly what Dr. Universe ordered for me. A spin-off of Concierge Medicine, DPC seeks to allow doctors to practice medicine the way it was meant to be. I had heard about it through a podcast that featured one of the true pioneers in DPC practice Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas MD in Wichita, Kansas. I remember excitedly running to find my spouse to tell her all about it that evening. I was so intrigued by the model, I was immediately hooked. And even though I knew the traditional medicine model I was in as an employee at that time was toxic for me, it still took me nearly 2 years to act on it. Not because the process is hard, but because I needed the right mindset and star alignment to get over the voice in my head telling me to stay put.

As soon as I decided to start back clinical practice, I knew it had to be on my own terms. My first order of business was to call the Texas Medical Board and enquire about my idea to only attend to at-risk youth aged 8 years to 18 years who are the exact population that I speak and write about. When the lady on the telephone told me I could, that was one of the happiest days of my life! Her words were something like “ma’am, as long as you are licensed to practice in this state, you can see only those born on the 5th of May if you like”. That essentially spun off my dream to open my own youth health center that would cater to the children that had picked me those many moons ago!

Do you know that it took me less than 6 weeks and cost me less than $10,000 to set up?     I have a micro DPC practice model, that means I have no front or back office, no fancy equipment, no staff, and an expected patient panel of less than 300, compared to nearly 2000 which I had at my last place of employment. The way my practice is set up, I shall see only 6-8 patients a day for up to 1hour or more per visit, three days a week, compared to 35-45 patients at my last multigroup practice employment. My monthly overhead is far less than I had when I owned a traditional practice, my EHR is user-friendly and convenient, my stress level is low, my patients are happy, and so am I 🙂

While this might not work for many, it works for me and others with a small niche. My friend, Dr. Amber Price of Willow Pediatrics up in Chicago, Illinois’s niche is only newborns. She incorporates home visits as part of her practice. Yet another friend, Dr. Sara Sultz of the DOC group up in College Station, Texas does home visits as well as telemedicine as part of her pediatric DPC practice. She even gives vaccines and IVF right there in the patient’s home! Such is the new way to practice medicine, and I am proud to be a part of it, and to announce that I am the first and only pediatrician in Texas and the US with my specific niche in this particular model.

So, what exactly is DPC? And why is #yourstruly so elated about it? Ironically, many of the doctors that I speak with have never heard about it. A few have heard about concierge medicine, but not many, much like I was a few short years ago.

In the Direct Primary Care practice model, the emphasis is on affordable care. In its purest form, no insurance or third-party payer is accepted. That right there puts the first nail in the burnout coffin! I was like “whaaat?” No insurance means; I. Get. To. See. My. Patients. For. As. Long. As. I. Want. To! Yassss!! We do encourage patients to keep their health insurance, and some practices will even generate invoices that might be reimbursed by the patient’s insurance after each visit. The model is based on a flat monthly fee in exchange for services, longer times spent with the patient, more intimate doctor-patient relationship, overall lower healthcare costs, direct access to patients both virtually and in person, improved work-life balance for physicians; thus drastically reducing burnout,  reduced patient load, and reduced administrative costs and overhead burdens. The increased intimacy with patients is a huge win for me, especially with the niche I see. Like any business, the fees vary depending on location and market competition.

The key here is; it is a membership model, much like Netflix or your gym membership. My patients have access to my cell phone number to call, text, email or facetime me whenever they need to, and they can be seen, as many times as they like to, each month! My question to you is; when was the last time you had that kind of access to your doctor? Let’s take for instance a 14 year old who is experiencing a depressive crisis at 2pm in the afternoon while at school, they would have the ability to call or text me right away, and not have to wait until they get home, inform their parent, who calls the next day only to get an appointment for the next week, take time off from work and school to arrive at the appointment, only to wait for one hour in the waiting room, and the doctor spends all of 10 minutes seeing them. Then wait another 2-3 months to get an appointment with the psychiatrist who may or may not accept their insurance, or is very likely to charge them 2 or 3 times my monthly fee for only one visit! Get it? #aintnobodygottimefordat!Placeholder Image

Some DPC doctors are set up like traditional practices with office staff,  laboratories, X-ray equipment, EKGs, and whatever else they need. Depending on state laws some also dispense medication in their practices, (Texas aint one of them…:) all for the same flat monthly fee. It’s just like a gym membership or Netflix for your doctor! In my case, for less than a cup of coffee at #Starbuxx my patients can see me everyday. Oh, and they don’t need to live in San Antonio Texas, I also have telemedicine included in the practice, so I can consult with patients virtually. Other services I am so proud we offer are a teen-2-teen support group (because teens speak teen, they don’t speak adult) and parent coaching, both of which I facilitate.

For now, I am loving DPC. It affords me time in my week to “mother” my children the way I want, be an awesome spouse to my Beloved, make time in the week to blog, work on my speaking gigs, record and edit my podcast; Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, The Podcast, you can subscribe, download and listen to it here and everywhere you listen to podcasts. I am finishing up my second book, a chronicle about Teen Life (my first book; a Parenting Guide, can be bought here). I have many more tricks up my sleeves in the coming weeks, so #staytuned.

In conclusion, I believe I have found my happy place in medicine again. While DPC might not be for everyone, it is for me, and it might be for you too, think about it. You never know. Here’s what you do, first start by conquering, silencing or banishing that voice telling you you can’t do it, the rest will fall in place. Ultimately, Happy Patient: Happy Doctor is what we all seek, right? Keeping it simple is what our mom’s taught us, yes?

So, I ask this time, dear doctor, will you DPC?

Me, Red Dress

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as the sea, or an ocean. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something that is better.”
― C. JoyBell C.

BB

7 Things Your Teens Can Do This Summer (To stay busy and out of trouble)

Dear Blog,

“What time is it? The time of our lives. Anticipation. What time is it?” Summertime. School’s out, scream and SHOUT!” A familiar tune from High School Musical-2.

Yes, it is summer time, and time for our children to come home for a break, as they ascend to the next phase of school. If you are a parent of sons like me, you are dreading the incipient refrigerator raids and perpetually empty pantry as a result of their constant snacking and eating. And just like me, you are also reminded that there is a 2-3 month break between now and next school year, and you are filled with dread about what to do, and how to fill in that time with meaningful activities for them.

Well, worry no more! Here are my tried and tested, no-fail ideas for activities for your teens. I have used these tricks for nearly 10yrs as my sons have transitioned from middle to high school, and now to college. However, my sons are very different, so some of the ideas had to be modified for each child, but for the most part, they worked.

Relax

Since they are often just returning from a stressful school semester or year (whether you are home-schooling or they are in traditional schools) I often allow them to take the first week or two off to de-stress, rest and relax from the drama of school work. This short period of downtime comprises of sleep, eating, more sleep, their assigned housework and whatever else they like to do to entertain themselves. As you can guess, it’s mostly video games to their cell phones, listening to music and back to video games…ugh! Because two of my boys play musical instruments, they are often also rehearsing their various musical instruments.

man sitting on red suede sofa holding black android smartphone
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We often have dinner together as a family, and just talk. We talk about school, what they learned during the entire year, and simply catch up on each other. No electronics are allowed during this “sacred time”. This is usually the most fun time for me, in particular. I do miss them a lot when they are gone, and even the youngest who is still at home is mostly “gone” during the school year because of his homework obligations, extracurricular activities and an early bedtime. So, we try to enjoy each other this first week.

This is also the time we call grandparents and extended family members to catch up on them.

Self Care

This is something very important to me. As a pediatrician, I always ensure my patients schedule their annual physicals during the summertime when school is out, to avoid missing out on school. The appointments can also be made earlier in lieu of school closing if you like. In addition, the doctor’s offices are not often as busy because most folks are out of town on vacation. This is when you want to schedule them for their vision, their dental, general well-child exams, and get updates on their vaccines and other minor issues that might have come up while they were in school.

Since I have sons, this is also the time to get their own personal hygiene taken care of. They get a nice hair cut for the summer, refill on their allergy medications or any meds at all, and get new clothes if needed for those who have had a growth spurt during the school year. I do realize some parents wait until the end of summer to do the back to school shopping, and that is also fine.

Read a book or two

As an avid reader, this is one activity I don’t compromise on. Luckily, most middle and high schools often have summer reading assigned to the students, and that is a bonus for my children. I require as a rule that my sons read for 2 hrs daily, for every 2 hrs of video games they play! They absolutely hate this, but they still do it. What I often do is, take them along with me to the library or make them go to the library for 2hrs daily. It ends up being fun for them, but not before they have complained a lot. Reading in the summer also helps keep their academic skills going. This way they don’t forget some of the stuff they were taught during the school year.  Summer reading is somewhat more fun because the teens have the freedom to pick whichever book they like to read and read at their own pace. We often block 10am-12noon for reading, that way, we all read together, and it becomes a bonding activity at the same time.

photo of girl reading book
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Finally, they have to do a book report on the books they have read, and we have a day or two set aside to discuss the books them. Once in a while, they want to re-read their old favorites, and I allow them, as long as they read.

Volunteer

For those of you who know me, you know that I am very big on volunteering. It is one of my most enjoyable past times. Teens could volunteer at home, or in a more structure set up like the regional hospital. Helping others, not only builds empathy, but it also builds compassion, mindfulness and a healthy dose of kindness and gratitude, and helps your teens learn the value of giving back to the community. These are a few of the guiding principles I discuss in my brand new Amazon bestseller, “How to Raise Well Rounded Children” available on Amazon or on my website.

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I believe that volunteering not only builds character, it also opens one’s mind up to experiences well beyond their personal imagination, and will ultimately help create a much better world for you and me. If you have not tried volunteering yet, do try it. Register your age-appropriate teens for various volunteering opportunities. Check this list for ideas of places you could all volunteer this summer. Remember, these experiences could also last into their adult years, so go for it.

Get that summer job

Beginning around the age of 13yr in most states in the US, most teens can start working. It could be around the home as babysitters, dogsitters, mowing the lawn, or other odd jobs to get paid by their parents. As they get older, the type and complexity of the jobs change and before you know it, they are older teens working in the corporate world.

I love the idea of teens working for pay, be it minimum wage or more organized pay because it is often their first taste of adulthood. It is also the best way to teach them responsibility, time management, money management, and independence. It is the ideal introduction into their employee or entrepreneurial future. While my eldest son just qualified to drive uber 3days ago when he turned 21yr, he has been holding down 2 jobs at Stanford since his early days as a freshman. Though reluctantly, he worked at Pizza Hut as a young teen, and that helped encourage his immediate younger brother to also seek employment at Pizza Hut in his high school days. Both sons are well versed in money and time management today, thanks to an early work habit. Not to be left out, my 14yr old youngest son was actually employed at his middle school this past school year as a football referee.

The money earned from work can be used for their own personal needs or saved in the bank, invested or used to help out their parents. One thing I made sure I did for each of my sons as soon as they turned 18yr was to open up an investment account for them. The accounts are funded by their own employment earnings. If you are not doing this yet, I strongly suggest you consider it. In all, working as a teen has much more benefits, than not.

Travel

Whether it’s learning a new language by immersion, learning how to save and budget money,  drawing up a functional itinerary, becoming independent and responsible for oneself, or learning about and experiencing different cultures, (foreign) travel is the ultimate way to spend a summer. It could be a study abroad program as part of a college or grade school curriculum, or a family vacation, or simply traveling together with friends. Either way, teens can learn a lot about the world at large by actually experiencing it. They develop critical thinking skills, tolerance for others, communication in foreign languages, and an open-minded world view.

woman laughing
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As a teen, I studied French in high school and got a rare opportunity to travel to Togo, and Benin Republic, two neighboring countries to Nigeria where French is the Lingua Franca. I also got traveled to Germany, the United Kingdom, and Greece as a young adult. All these countries shaped my life and my personality today. More recently, my children and I have visited Canada, The Bahamas, and Mexico. My eldest son toured Europe with the Stanford Orchestra last summer and came back a changed man. He sang praises about Europe and can’t wait to go back when he is older. His brother will sign up for a study abroad program with his Architecture class from Texas Tech next academic year. All three children have visited Nigeria numerous times.

I cannot overemphasize the power of travel to the developing mind. I am almost inclined to declare that “the traveler lives his or her life twice as much; first as themselves, then through the people, they meet in the course of their travels”.

Hang out with their friends

Summertime is a time for reconnection with (old) friends. Your teen should be allowed to travel with or simply hang out with their friends (vetted or not). Good friends balance you out as much as bad friends do, and teens can actually learn a lot about themselves through their friends.

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Case in point: My middle son is already home from college. He asked to go hang out with his friends a few days ago. I let him take the car. He returned within an hour. Puzzled, I enquired about his early return home. He explained that his friends had decided to hang out at the pool and drink alcohol at 5pm in the afternoon! Since he does not drink alcohol, he opted to return home. I was filled with so much pride and admiration for him. He made the right call. The safe call, all on his own. He chose to not hang out with his friends that afternoon because he “knew they were going to eventually get drunk and he did not want to be around them”.

Having friends and feeling connected to a group gives teenagers a sense of belonging and being valued, which helps develop self-esteem and confidence. Friendships also help teenagers learn important social and emotional skills, like being sensitive to other people’s thoughts, feelings, and wellbeing. A teen’s friends can be a powerful influence, positive or negative, and the teen must know when to say no to the negative influences of such friends.

In all, allow your teens to live their lives out loud this summer. You have done most of the hard work, the rest is on them. Remember to listen to words said and unsaid, and in all things, live your best life as a parent, so they can emulate you, their first and most important teacher.

Toodles 🙂

“You become the choices that you make, so choose wisely” ~ Dr. Lulu